DEL MAR – After a year-long process, the 22nd District Agricultural Association has selected a new lessee to begin lease negotiations to take over the Del Mar Horsepark. The contract is expected to be approved by the board at the upcoming board meeting on Jan. 11.
Dale Harvey, CEO of West Palms Events, will be the winning bidder of the Horsepark once the process is finalized by the state board. The event company hosts an equine competition circuit with events around the country, including the Riders Cup and this year’s 100th annual Flintridge Horse Show in Los Angeles County.
The Horsepark, located on 65 acres about three miles east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds at the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle in the San Dieguito River Valley, has been closed for about a year due to water quality concerns from the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The necessary improvements would cost about $3 or $4 million, although previous estimates were somewhere near $8 million.
Additionally, COVID-related restrictions on public events, on top of declining horse racing and existing debt, have put the Fairgrounds in financial straits. In January 2021, the Fairgrounds sought public input to help chart the cash-strapped equestrian facility’s future, previously reported by The Coast News.
Six months later, the 22nd DAA started a request for proposals, or RFP, process to find a lessee for the Horsepark who could cover the costs needed to reopen the facility.
Harvey had submitted a proposal once before and was rejected because of a “technicality,” according to the board. After successfully submitting a second proposal, Harvey has plans to move forward with water remediation, implement renovations on the park, resume horse shows and add dog shows and other events.
“We are excited to work with the 22nd DAA to get the facility back on track,” Harvey said in a statement. “It’s an incredible location and we hope to attract all kinds of activities for the community. We are collaborating with Cornerstone Therapeutic Riding Center and plan to bring therapy riding activities to the Horsepark.”
The advocacy group Friends of Del Mar Horsepark has been working for the past year to save the Horsepark and have it reopened, even garnering more than 17,000 signatures on an online petition.
Carla Echols-Hayes, co-founder of the group, told The Coast News that they are excited to support Harvey as he takes this on.
“The support has been unbelievable,” Echols-Hayes said. “We received signatures and support from people all over the nation, and I think that showed the DAA and the community that people really do care about this.”
“I think that [Harvey] is going to need community support, as well, and we want to help with funding some of these projects and we’re going to be exploring some ways to do that for specific things,” Echols-Hayes continued. “I think that kind of community outreach is needed.”
More details about the park’s estimated reopening date and the logistics of the agreement are expected to be discussed at the upcoming board meeting.